Student sitting at table in Macmillan Room 360

“student”, by Martin Dee, Flickr, All Rights Reserved

  • Develop general scenarios before creating a specific script. Get an idea of how you would like your overall segment to play out (using a storyboard), then script details can be added.
  • Start with a hook – something that draws your viewers in and piques interest. This hook could be a quote, anecdote, or anything else that leaves your viewers wanting more.
  • Send the script to your actors in advance for them to review and get comfortable with 
  • Be flexible. Encourage your actors to put a personal twist on the script rather than worry about following it word for word. This will help the scenario seem more authentic. Don’t expect people who aren’t experienced actors to be able to memorize large portions of the script.
  • Get feedback early and often – it is worthwhile to collaborate with people who have practical experience in the subject matter of your script
  • Don’t forget to carefully script any narration you may have (as a separate script)
  • Consider how you want to film the actual scene while editing the script

How to Write for the Ear

1) Read through your script out loud as you create it

  • This is called mouth editing – We write differently than we speak and reading each line out loud will help to hear if the script sounds natural.
  • Avoid using words such as “I think” and “I feel”, as they make an actor appear nervous
  • Use contractions – it’s the natural way people speak (e.g. use “don’t” instead of “do not”)
  • Avoid tongue twisters

2) Be concise

  • Do not bombard listeners with too much detail
  • Limit sentences to one thought – i.e. avoid compound sentences
  • Actors should be able to read the sentences you’ve written in one breath
  • Use action verbs to limit words (e.g. use ‘strolling’ instead of ‘walking slowly’)

3) Budget about 3 words per second to calculate script time

4) Consider your audience

  • Make sure language is clear and avoid using jargon terms that may cause confusion

5) Use telling detail

  • Focus on traits like ‘sunbaked hat’ or ‘mud-caked boots’ instead of directly saying an individual works outside all day

6) Use comparisons rather than dimensions

  • People can’t process dimensions fast enough when they’re listening without visual aid
  • e.g. use ‘the size of a football field’ or ‘size of a quarter’ instead of ‘100 yards’ or ‘1 inch’